Best Places to Visit in France
The French affectionately call their beloved homeland “l’Hexagone” because of its distinctive hexagonal shape. Every corner of France has its own character: the rugged and open-air French Alps; sun-drenched, slow-paced Provence; the stunning and spectacular Côte d’Azur coastline; and idyllic Alsace, an idyllic little village hidden in the hills covered with vines.
Paris and Versailles are must-see destinations for first-time visitors to France. Other classic itineraries include stops at popular seaside resorts, fairy-tale castles and magnificent Gothic cathedrals. More untold experiences can be found in the countryside, such as the farmhouses of Burgundy, the fishing villages of Brittany, and the quaint towns in the forests of the Pyrenees.
From cultural cities to pristine natural attractions, France offers endless tourist attractions. Explore this fascinating and diverse country with our list of the Best Places to Visit in France and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in France
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in France:
Brittany is a picturesque coastal region with a rich maritime heritage found in historic port cities: the ancient walled Saint-Malo; Nantes, the capital of the Middle Ages; and the fortified 14th Century Concarneau.
The coast is also home to popular seaside resorts such as the popular Dinard on the Côte d’Emeraude, La Baule, a summer resort at the mouth of the Loire, and Tréboul near the charming riverside town of Quimper.
The scenery is stunning and unspoiled, with secluded sandy beaches and a rocky coastline lapped by wild Atlantic waves. Centuries-old fishing villages are found in quiet coves and windy offshore islets.
Breton culture can be traced back to the Celts (the local dialect is related to Welsh). Like Ireland, it is a country full of myths and legends. Today, Brittany is staunchly Catholic. Locals celebrate an ancient religious practice called “pardon”, a special holiday for citizens to wear old-fashioned local clothing.
Local cuisine includes fresh seafood and delicious specialties such as delicious buckwheat pancakes. Brittany also has a famous regional pastry, the “kouign-amann”, a buttery pastry made from croissant dough, sprinkled with sugar and has a moist cake-like center with a crunchy caramelized crust.
Combining Parisian elegance with the wild natural beauty of the Atlantic coast, Biarritz is a luxury seaside resort with stunning beaches. Biarritz was favored by Queen Eugenie, who loves this part of the Basque Country. The Royal Palace chose a sandy slope overlooking the Bay of Biscay as the location for Villa Eugenie.
This Second Empire palace has been converted into luxury accommodation, a five-star palace hotel with beautifully decorated rooms and a gourmet seaside restaurant. Next to the hotel is the Grande Plage, a sandy beach that has been attracting sunbathers since the Belle Époque.
Another best beach in Biarritz is Plage du Miramar. Picturesque in summer with colorful striped cottages and umbrellas, this sheltered beach has the pleasant vibe of an old-fashioned beach resort. Just half an hour’s drive (15 km) from Biarritz is the historic fishing port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a popular summer destination with family-friendly beaches.
An inland excursion 25 km from Biarritz is the traditional Basque village of Espelette. This small village has typical half-timbered, red shuttered Basque houses decorated with rows of dried red peppers called Piment d’Espelette (for Basque cuisine).
In Spain’s Basque Country, 50 kilometers from Biarritz by bus, car or train, the lively seaside city of San Sebastian attracts tourists with its elegant architecture, sandy beaches and delicious tapas.
3. Joan of Arc Monuments
Joan of Arc, the national hero of France, led her country to victory in the Hundred Years’ War at the age of seventeen. His divine mission, dictated by voices from heaven, remains an inspiration for believers.
The remarkable story of Joan of Arc begins with Chinon, where she met the future Charles VII (“Dauphin”) on March 9, 1429, at the Forteresse Royale. In this pivotal event, the “Maiden of Orleans” declared her right to the throne to the dauphin and asked for help to raise an army to break the Siege of Orleans.
Due to its rich heritage, Chinon is classified as a City of Art and History. On the tree-lined Place, Jeanne d’Arc is a huge equestrian bronze statue of Joan of Arc, depicted as a heroic military leader.
Among the main attractions of the Loire Valley, Orleans is another major stop on the Joan of Arc trail. The city was liberated by the “Maid of Orleans” during the siege of 1429. Joan of Arc came to the town’s Basilica of the Holy Cross to pray after leading the French to defeat the British army. The cathedral’s 19th-century stained glass windows tell the history of Joan of Arc.
In a 15th-century half-timbered house, the House of Joan of Arc now displays exhibits about Joan of Arc, who is recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. A bronze equestrian statue of Joan of Arc adorns Orleans’ Place Matero.
Visitors can learn more about the life story of Joan of Arc at some of Rouen’s top attractions. In the 13th century Joan of Arc Tour (dungeon), Joan of Arc is the remains of the town’s old castle where she was imprisoned, threatened with torture, tracked down and accused of heresy.
Since that infamous trial and martyrdom in 1431, Joan of Arc has been canonized. The Eglise Jeanne d’Arc was built in Rouen where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake and to pay homage to the saint’s legacy. This modern church has a swinging roof designed to resemble a flame.
Rouen also has a museum dedicated to Joan of Arc, the Historic Joan of Arc, in the former Archbishop’s Palace (classified historical monument) on rue Saint-Romain. This museum explores the epic story of Joan of Arc and explains how she changed the course of French history. Stimulating multimedia exhibits and videos bring the event to life in exciting ways.
4. Cote d’Azur
Also known as the French Riviera, the Cote d’Azur is a stunning Mediterranean coastline named after its azure waters. Because of the sunny weather most of the year in this part of southern France, the sky also often takes on a striking azure color. Stretching from Saint-Tropez to Menton, less than 30 kilometers from the Italian border, the Cote d’Azur has been a popular seaside resort since the early 19th century. Spring and autumn bring mild weather and a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.
There is something for everyone on the Cote d’Azur. Nice is the ideal place to live the good life, visit art museums and stroll the cobblestone streets and palm-fringed boulevards. Day trip-friendly attractions such as gorgeous seaside villas and amazing art museums are just a short drive from Nice.
One of the most famous tourist destinations on the French Riviera in Cannes, with its dazzling waterfront promenade and charming old town. And Monaco, a small royal duchy synonymous with luxury and decadence. In Cannes and Monaco, there are five-star hotels, famous restaurants and marinas.
Sun worshipers flock to St. Tropez a lively summer resort with private beaches as well as public beaches that attract regular tourists. Vacationers appreciate Antibes’ wide sandy beaches, atmospheric medieval quarters and the magnificent Picasso Museum, housed in a chateau overlooking the sea.
5. Montu of Saint Michel in Normandy
Mont Saint Michel is the highlight of the Normandy region, with idyllic apple orchards, woodlands and cow pastures. This must-see tourist attraction is number one among many tourist attractions in Normandy and includes wonderful sights such as historic castles and picturesque towns.
Constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is one of France’s most stunning sights. Perched on the top of an island in the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, this UNESCO-listed monastery is considered a marvel of Gothic architecture.
The Abbey Church was an important medieval pilgrimage site on the “Way of St. James” route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Modern pilgrims still travel here, St. Michel’s Bay on foot at low tide.
Visiting Mont Saint Michel is an exhilarating experience. Visitors can attend religious ceremonies, concerts and cultural events in this historic and magnificent monastery.
6. The Châteaux of the Loire Valley
Like a fairytale setting, magnificent castles are scattered across the lush woodland of the Loire Valley. Stretching 280 kilometers from Sully-sur-Loire to Chalonnes-sur-Loire in Anjou, the Loire Valley is France’s largest UNESCO-listed site. The region has an extremely rich cultural heritage. In the 15th and 16th centuries, French kings built luxurious cottages here purely for entertainment and pleasure.
Extravagant castles such as the magnificent Chambord and the iconic Chenonceau give you an idea of the luxury of the French court during the Renaissance. French aristocrats and elites also built splendid estates on a flooded moat, such as the magnificent Château de Cheverny and the idyllic Azay-le-Rideau castle.
For families with children, the mini castle park in Amboise is a fantastic destination. Set in two hectares of woodland, the amusement park features more than 40 replicas of the 1/25 scale castles of the Loire. Kids love exploring the kid-sized castle, designed with unique details.
7. Alsace Region
The historic cities of Strasbourg and Colmar, as well as hundreds of Alsatian villages, have a special old-world charm quite unlike the rest of France. For centuries, Alsace’s architecture and atmosphere have been influenced by neighboring Germany, as can be seen in the brightly colored half-timbered buildings and old Gothic churches.
Quirky and cultured Strasbourg attracts visitors with its narrow cobbled streets, scenic canals and ornate cathedral. Colmar is a typical Alsatian town full of interesting old churches and traditional houses with flowery balconies. Beyond these two cities is a landscape of unspoiled, vine-covered foothills. Storybook hamlets and picturesque villages in the valley and on the banks of the Rhine.
The Alsatian Village Route is an enjoyable way to explore the region. Many villages are listed as the most beautiful villages in France (the most beautiful villages in France), and some are called Fleuris (blooming villages) because of the vibrant potted flowers that adorn their homes and streets.
8. Mont Blanc and Annecy in the French Alps
The French Alps boast some of the most stunning natural beauty in the world. The majestic Mont Blanc is Europe’s highest mountain, an iconic snow-capped peak that rises to 4,810 meters. At this altitude, the air is fresh and the scenery is magnificent with crystal clear lakes, dramatic cascading waterfalls, tranquil valleys and refreshing pine forests.
In summer, tourists flock to the Alps to hike, bike and climb. In winter, the French Alps attract many alpine skiers, snowboarders and cross-country skiers. The region is home to many of France’s best ski resorts. Other activities during the snow season include ice skating, dog sleigh rides and old-fashioned sleigh rides.
In addition to the magnificent mountain terrain, the region has a rich cultural heritage linked to the ancestral lands of the Italian royal family of Savoy and the historic Dauphiné region. The beautiful mountain village of Chamonix has a traditional mountain atmosphere, while Annecy has old castles, lakeside views and fairytale settings.
For those looking to rejuvenate, the region’s Belle Époque spa towns such as Aix-les-Bains and Evian-Les-Bains offer the ultimate relaxing vacation experience in cozy thermal spas and luxury hotels.
9. Dordogne and Pyrenees
The Dordogne region is one of the best places in France to see prehistoric cave paintings. Lascaux cave, located in the Vallée de la Vézère in the Dordogne and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains masterpieces of Paleolithic art of the Cro-Magnon people. Although the Lascaux Caves are closed to the public to prevent damage, visitors can view replicas of the cave art at the nearby Lascaux II site.
Also in Montignac is the International Center for the Arts, which presents exhibits on prehistoric animal paintings and displays the work of archaeologists. The center contains Lascaux IV, an exact replica of the prehistoric Lascaux caves.
Also in the Vézère valley, the Grotte de Rouffignac is decorated with images of horses, cattle, bison, deer, goats and mammoths. One of the main tourist attractions in the Pyrenees region is the Grotte du Mas d’Azil, a huge cave decorated with drawings from the Magdalene and Azilian periods. Deep in the Pyrenees, this tourist attraction offers guided tours and admission to the nearby history museum.
About an hour’s drive from the Mas d’Azil caves, the Grotte de Niaux is also home to outstanding Paleolithic artworks dating from 14,000 to 10,000 BC. The Grotte de Niaux is open to the public for guided tours. Near the town of Tarascon-sur-Ariege, the Grotte de Lombrives showcases fascinating ancient history, and the Grotte de Bédeilhac dazzles with rare prehistoric art from the Magdalenian period.
Nestled among craggy cliffs, Rocamadour seems too long for paradise. This stunning site was the third most important Christian pilgrimage site of the 11th century and was a stop on the Santiago Camino Pilgrimage Route. The village has seven medieval temples accessed by steep pedestrian stairs. The most famous is the Miracle Chapel, which houses the precious 12th-century Notre-Dame de Rocamadour, which is associated with miracles.
Basilique Saint-Sauveur, the largest church in Rocamadour, is a UNESCO-listed historical monument. This 13th-century pilgrimage church showcases the architectural transition from Romanesque to Gothic.
Outside the village is the Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park. In this pristine landscape of the Quercy plateau, milk produced by grazing goats is used to make Cabécou de Rocamadour cheese, which bears the AOC logo. In late May or early June, the village of Rocamadour hosts the Fête des Fromages (Cheese Festival), dedicated to the region’s farm cheeses.
Other popular attractions within an hour and a half of Rocamadour include:
Ville d’Art et d’Histoire and Limoges (145 km away), listed as one of the top tourist destinations in the Limousin region; and Périgueux (115 km away), a quaint town in the Dordogne that dates back to Roman times, also located on the Santiago Camino.
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in France. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in France, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.